Cooke looks for new sites

October 19, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Sandy Banisky, Michael A. Fletcher, Mark Hyman, Howard Libit, John A. Morris and John Rivera contributed to this article.

Jack Kent Cooke put everyone on notice yesterday: He's looking at other locations from Baltimore to Washington for a stadium for his Redskins.

He said he is not giving up on his original plan to build in Laurel, however. "We are hearing from communities who want to have us there in the state of Maryland," Mr. Cooke said.

Laurel remains "our first choice," he said, and the Redskins are taking "immediate and positive steps" to try to comply with the county's objections to a 78,600-seat stadium there.

It was not clear yesterday what caused Mr. Cooke to modify -- even slightly -- his single-minded campaign to move to Laurel. Some observers who have been close to the yearlong process saw the owner's announcement as a message to the National Football League, and specifically the Los Angeles Rams, that Mr. Cooke has no intention of giving up on a move into the Maryland football market.

News that the Redskins are considering sites other than Laurel, those observers reason, would discourage teams such as the Rams that might have been encouraged to consider moving to Baltimore if the Redskins were locked out of Laurel.

On Oct. 12, an Anne Arundel County zoning officer shredded the Redskins' case for a Laurel stadium, calling the 382-acre site "too small for the proposed use."

Administrative Hearing Officer Robert C. Wilcox turned down seven of the Redskins' eight zoning requests, saying the stadium as proposed would harm public health, safety and welfare.

The Redskins immediately filed an appeal, but a date has not been set for the hearing.

Stadium project manager Walter Lynch said yesterday that the Redskins have put together a team to sift through "scores" of proposals promoting alternative sites.

"We're just swamped with people with land," he said. "There's a lot of good offers, a lot of good proposals."

The announcement by Mr. Cooke also does not appear to rule out potential sites in the District of Columbia or Virginia.

Marion S. Barry, the Democratic mayoral candidate in Washington, said he was not discouraged. "It doesn't affect us," Mr. Barry said. "We're moving full steam ahead."

Some observers had speculated that Mr. Cooke might also be persuaded to move his team to Camden Yards.

But Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said yesterday, "I have not met Mr. Cooke, nor have I had any discussions with representatives of the Redskins with regard to Camden Yards or any locations."

Asked whether he had ruled out a move to Baltimore, Mr. Cooke said yesterday, "That is my business."

He said a report that the team was considering building in Frederick was untrue.

Jeanne Mignon, president of Citizens Against the Stadium II, said yesterday she had heard rumors that Mr. Cooke might be considering building a stadium at the site of the USAir Arena in Prince George's County.

Robert Dvorak, Anne Arundel's chief administrative officer and director of planning and code enforcement, said yesterday that he knows of no other site in Anne Arundel County or elsewhere in Maryland that is being considered by the Redskins.

Observers have speculated about other potential stadium sites for months.

The property management company for a Howard County site mentioned over the summer -- the former Freestate Raceway property near U.S. 1 in North Laurel -- also has had no contact with the team, said Paul Price, senior vice president for Lincoln Property Co.

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